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Imperfect art: working in public: a case study of the Oakland Projects (1991-2001).

Lacy, Suzanne


Suzanne Lacy


Anne Douglas

Grant Kester


In Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art (1994) the author called for a new language of critique for the transient and publicly located art practices known today as social, or public, practices. Since that time authors have taken up the challenge to site the work in art historical, philosophical, and cultural contexts and to assess its aesthetic merits. One of the major themes is how, exactly, the social claims in this work can be calculated. This paper adds to that discourse through the examination of a complex and lengthy set of art projects in Oakland, California, through the lens of critical pedagogy. The Oakland Projects (including performance, installation, exhibition, civic action, curriculum, and workshops) focused on social circumstances, popular media representation, and public policies regarding urban juveniles in California between 1991–2001. This research examined five sites: institutions within health, education, criminal justice, and civic policy, and youth experience. The praxis of classroom teaching and theories on education and democracy found in the literature of critical pedagogy offer a possible way to examine how this work might operate in the public sphere. The author traces the threads of a personal historiography of two significant teachers (in the 1970s) that metaphorically and practically provide a nexus of educational reform and avant-garde art as background to the examination of the Oakland Projects. In the process key issues in the work, including aesthetics and ethics, are examined, but the focus is on how forms of pedagogy - from the expanded notion of public pedagogy to the intimate level of the mentoring relationship - add dimension to the work's claim to hold a relevant place within both the public and professional art spheres.


LACY, S. 2013. Imperfect art: working in public: a case study of the Oakland Projects (1991-2001). Robert Gordon University, PhD Thesis.

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date May 1, 2019
Publicly Available Date May 1, 2019
Keywords Social practice; Art and society; Public art; Oakland, CA; Youth in art
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